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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Football team using summer for bonding

    Summertime means several things for the Arizona football team. It is time to get stronger, faster and more comfortable with the playbook.

    But this off-season, the Wildcats are putting a large emphasis on one specific attribute: team chemistry.

    With the arrival of the team’s newest recruits as well as the uprising of its newest leaders all occurring during the summer months, the Arizona players have taken the first steps to creating a cohesive team with a calendar full of “”team bonding”” activities.

    “”(Team camaraderie) is something that needs to be improved and we’re really trying to enforce it this year,”” safety Nate Ness said. “”I remember when I first came here as a freshman, it was tough. So we’re just trying to help out the young guys and that is something that will really translate positively later on in the season.””

    While the Wildcats already began meshing during biweekly voluntary practices run by team leaders such as quarterback Willie Tuitama and linebacker Ronnie Palmer, the players have moved the competition off the field as well, in hopes of producing a tightly knit group.

    So far the veterans have organized events ranging from barbecues to softball games to bowling tournaments, all designed to welcome the freshmen and bring the team closer together.

    As the summer has progressed, the Wildcats have not only become a tighter bunch but have learned a few things about their teammates as well – for instance, who can swing the meanest stick in a game of softball.

    “”I’d have to give (the top softball player title) to (defensive back) Cam (Nelson),”” Ness said. “”Cam or (running back Nicolas) Grigsby by far. Those guys can play.””

    Softball is not the only competition brewing behind the scenes in the Arizona locker room. Bowling tournaments have also done their part in bringing the Wildcats together though dividing them when the offense challenges the defense on the lanes.

    “”I forgot who the best bowler was, but he was on offense – I can tell you that much,”” tight end Rob Gronkowski said.

    In addition to the bonding achieved through the player-organized events, the Arizona coaching staff has their own plan to aid a similar cause as the team will head south in early August to spend four days at Fort Huachuca – a major military installation near Sierra Vista, Ariz.

    “”I’m excited to see how it’s gonna be,”” Ness said. “”I think a different scene will bring out more intensity.

    “”It’ll be good for us to go somewhere and get away from (Tucson) for a little bit. That’s another thing I think will help with our bonding.””

    With all of the efforts being focused on camaraderie this summer, expectations are running high throughout the Arizona locker room.

    After two back-to-back seasons in which the Wildcats came within a Dual in the Desert victory away from becoming bowl-eligible, the Arizona veterans have developed a sense of urgency which has begun to translate on the practice field.

    Most improved, according to Ness, is the Wildcats’ offense, which struggled early in games last season being outscored 112-73 in first quarter action.

    “”The offense is definitely looking good, we’re coming alive,”” Gronkowski said. “”We’ve got some impressive new kids out there and we’re finally starting to tear up the defense a little bit.””

    Among the impressive freshmen are cornerback Robert Golden and wide receiver David Douglas.

    Douglas has made an immediate impression on his teammates throughout the summer workouts with his hands while Golden has earned comparisons to former Arizona standout Antoine Cason.

    “”He could be a really really good corner,”” Ness said of Golden. “”He’s out there working hard, trying to learn and being

    aggressive.

    “”He reminds me at times of Antoine (Cason) with his aggressiveness.””

    Due to the strong workouts, the Wildcats have developed a strong sense of confidence for the upcoming season.

    It has been 10 years since Arizona finished the year above the .500 mark and while it’s still early, the Wildcats’ veterans have reason to believe that this year could be the turnaround.

    “”I think we’re working harder this year,”” Gronkowski said. “”Everyone is fighting hard for those spots and we just look hungry.

    “”It should be a good year and maybe we can finally get to that bowl game.””

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